Mad Stan: BLOW IT ALL UP! Terry McGinnis:Anarchism
Keep it down, Stan. We're in a library. Mad Stan:
You think this is a joke? Look around, Batman! Society's crumbling! And do you know why? Terry McGinnis:
Too many overdue books? Mad Stan:
Information overload, man! As a society we're drowning in a quagmire of vid-clips, e-mail, and sound bytes! We can't absorb it all! There's only one sane solution: BLOW IT UP!
is an umbrella term for a bunch of views that advocate the reduction or elimination of hierarchic power and its replacement by various forms of voluntary non-hierarchical cooperation. Historically, the majority of anarchists encourage nonviolent means for this goal.
Since the 19th century, after anarchism began to take form as a social movement, news, propaganda, and fiction have vilified anarchists as maniacs
who just want nothing but chaos
, and anarchy
. Anarchists often fill the role of Terrorists Without a Cause
. This also tended to be the stereotypical image of communists for many Westerners until the "Orwellian intellectual infiltrating the government"
image gained popularity starting in the 1940s.
The "bomb-throwing" image of the anarchist was locked into the mindset of the public after the 1886 Haymarket Square riot in Chicago, where eight anarchists went on trial for a bomb that was thrown at a rally (they were not actually charged with throwing it, as some weren't even at the rally, instead they were charged with inciting the action, being influential anarchist figures in Chicago). Most people had probably never paid much attention to one of the 19th century's many radical social movements before, but the sensationalized spread of the incident left a negative impression in media for a long time. The assassination of several heads of governments by anarchists during the following twenty years didn't help them either.
Often depicted with excess facial hair
, or wearing a mask
Traditionally equipped with a Cartoon Bomb
, described by one stock image-hosting site as an "old-fashioned anarchist-style round bomb with burning fuse
Subtrope of Strawman Political
Compare Mad Bomber
, Dirty Communists
, Ludd Was Right
. For the right-wing version, see Right Wing Militia Fanatic
. See also Anarchy Is Chaos
for an aversion. For actual bomb throwing as a Weapon of Choice
see Throw Down The Bomblette
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Anime and Manga
- Cowboy Bebop had the Teddy Bomber, a character existing only to be a bounty to be chased and fought over by Spike and Andy. He constantly tries to outline his manifesto but the two egomaniac heroes ignore him in their scrap to prove superiority over the (practically identical) other. We discover that in the end, his bombing was an attempt to call attention to, and level, the vast inequalities in society.
- Katsura from Gintama is like this initially, but later decides to resort to more peaceful methods of changing the country. Though with how often he's seen goofing off, it's easy to forget that he's even a member of an anti-foreigner faction to begin with.
- V from V for Vendetta partially counts. He is an anarchist and he is quite entirely mad, but unlike the other examples of this trope, he does have some empathy and does not mindlessly destroy everything. He's also... Well, not exactly The Hero, but a Well-Intentioned Extremist who's probably the marginally lighter shade of the Grey and Grey Morality compared to Norsefire. note
- Batman villain (and obvious V Expy) Anarky is also a subversion. Sure, he's regularly put against Batman, but he's able to explain his motivations clearly and is often painted as more of an Anti-Hero who just happens to think violent means are okay against certain targets. He even had his own book for a few issues. As of late, however, there seems to be a new guy behind the mask who hews closer to this trope, and the actual Anarky is stuck in a technopathic coma seeking revenge. The original author is apparently not pleased with this development.
- The Trope Image is taken from Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the United States, part of his Cartoon History of the Universe series, humourously lampshaded the common stereotype of anarchists as mad, bearded bombers ("smell like garlic... foreign accent... burning fuse") during the 1880s Red Scare after the Haymarket Bombing.
- Referenced in Tintin: King Ottokar's Sceptre. When Tintin sneaks into the palace to warn the king about the plot, he is captured by guards in the middle of a ball. The guests are told that Tintin was an anarchist, causing one of the guests to faint. (Of course, the book was written around the time when anarchists were practically synonymous with terrorists.)
- Doctor Who Magazine: A mad anarchist named Ruddock is used as a stooge in an attempt to blow up Buckingham Palace in "The Crystal Throne".
- Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight describes himself as an "agent of chaos" and talks about anarchy rather a lot - and does love Stuff Blowing Up - but it's pretty obvious he doesn't have any real politics apart from doing things For the Evulz.
- The Joker was more of an Illegalist, a type of French anarchism where crime is considered the only true expression of anarchy. Essentially For the Evulz is the Joker's political cause, as he thinks everyone should be like that.
- He seems to fashion himself as a sort of dark trickster figure, particularly in opposition to Batman as an upholder of law and ORDER (thus the Joker would aspire to unlawful and chaotic acts)
- Robin Williams gives a chilling performance as one in THE SECRET AGENT, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad.
- The Vin Diesel vehicle xXx had a group of these as its villains, who intended to launch a chemical attack against several cities to provoke a world war and cause all order to break down leading to global freedom... somehow. The hero, on the other hand, has almost exactly the same social philosophy without the "killing people" part.
- The Weather Underground (2002)
- The Baader Meinhof Complex (2007)
- Technically they were Communists (mostly Marxist-Leninists), not anarchists, but they managed to pigeonhole themselves in the whole "anti-establishment radicals are insane" stereotype.
- Mallory from A Fistful of Dynamite is an antiheroic take on this trope.
- J. Edgar features anarchists, whom Hoover inaccurately refers to as "Bolshevik communists," who attempt to kill the Attorney General of the US, among other high-profile targets. This is Truth in Television, since it actually happened in 1919.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Moriarty manipulates a French anarchist cell into blowing up several buildings in Paris in order to destabilize Europe.
- No God, No Master revolves around Bureau of Investigation agent William Flynn investigating the 1919 Anarchist Bombings, where numerous high business and government figures were targeted with package bombs. It has many historical inaccuracies, though.
- Older Than Radio: Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent has some straight examples and some subversions:
- The main character, Mr. Verloc, is a spy for the czarist Russian government infiltrating a group of anarchists in London. His boss wants to provoke a crackdown on anarchists by the British government by getting anarchists to blow up the Royal Observatory. Verloc eventually converts his brother-in-law, a mentally retarded teenager, to violent anarchism in order to have him commit the crime.
- Michaelis is a retired bomb-throwing anarchist who has become convinced that anarcho-syndicalism will succeed without violence. He is portrayed as very well-intentioned but not very bright.
- The Professor, the purest example of this trope in the book, is a Nietzsche Wannabe who gives Verloc a bomb. He despises Michaelis's idealism and wants to create a world where the strong have free reign to crush the weak.
- The story also includes the grotesque figure of Karl Yundt, who is expresses himself thus: "I have always dreamed of a band of men absolute in their resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves frankly the name of destroyers, and free from the taint of that resigned pessimism which rots the world. No pity for anything on earth, including themselves, and death enlisted for good and all in the service of humanity — that's what I would have liked to see." He has long since forgotten what he hoped to build in place of the old order.
- From about the same era (1908, to be precise), the anarchists in G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday are actually proud of being devoted to destruction as an end in itself, considering partisan terrorists weaklings. "The outer circle are sad because the bomb did not kill the king; the inner circle are glad because the bomb killed somebody."
- The Man Who Was Thursday is actually a Christian parable of sorts. The "anarchists" are not rebelling against society but against God. To be fair, many anarchists of the time were also strongly anti-theistic.
- And most of the alleged anarchists are merely disguised as such. The full title is The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare.
- This is a staple of the era, so much so that the short story of H. G. Wells' first collection, The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, mocks the idea of an anarchist committing bioterrorism. A Bacteriologist, after a bit of prompting, shows a young man a vial containing a live culture of cholera, then leaves the room momentarily to answer the door, his return quickly followed by the visitor apologizing for wasting so much of the Bacteriologist's valuable time and leaving. The Bacteriologist then notices that there's something missing. One Yackety Sax-worthy taxi chase (one taxi for the anarchist, one for the Bacteriologist, and one for his wife with his hat, shoes, and overcoat) later, the vial breaks in the anarchist's hand and the anarchist decides to act as the first carrier and drinks what's left, at which point he feels free to exit the cab, yell "Vive l'Anarchie! You are too late, my friend. I have drunk it. The cholera is abroad," and walk off into a crowd. On the ride home, the Bacteriologist reveals that he had just told the anarchist that the vial had contained cholera to impress him, while it actually contained a bacterium that turns animals blue.
- Dostoevsky's novel Demons (a.k.a. The Possessed) features probably the worst version of this trope... as protagonists! Their ideologist, Shigaylov, states that they will wipe out millions of innocent people to create a new society, their leader is power-hungry maniac, and his right-hand man is a child molester, though it's said only in a deleted chapter. Though Dostoevsky predicted a Reign of Terror once the Communists came to power, his characters are even worse than real-life CHEKA and NKVD, because almost all of the Soviet government's cruel actions were pragmatically motivated, but the anarchist terrorist gang were much more indiscriminate.
- Former Russian Socialist Revolutionary bomber Boris Savinkov eventually wrote an autobiography that was more or less true to the less nihilistic outlook of his party (which was not anarchistic to begin with anyway) and a fictional novel where the protagonist is a Blood Knight and virtually a Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
- Of course, there needs must be named the "protagonist" of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, the dynamite-happy anarchist Webb Traverse, and his nitroglycerin liturgy against the railroads.
- In Native Son, Bigger and his friends go to see a movie titled The Gay Woman in which the hero is attacked by a bomb-wielding Communist.
- The title character of Ken Follett's novel The Man From St. Petersburg, whose bomb-throwing gives protagonist Lord Stephen Walden a pretty impressive Took a Level in Badass moment.
- BAST in Win, Lose or Die is known as an organization which believes that global anarchy through terrorism leads to absolute power. What the organization doesn't know that its leader is just using his people to gain money.
Live Action TV
- Punk bands often invoked this trope, posing as Bomb-Throwing Anarchists — sometimes for shock value, and sometimes at face value. The Ur Example may be the band Sex Pistols, whose famous song "Anarchy in the UK" goes as follows:
- Note that we say the Sex Pistols posed as this type of anarchist; singer John Lydon later dismissed anarchy as basically "a thought to entertain, but nothing serious" (paraphrased). Later punk bands, such as the Dead Kennedys, do give voice to actual anarchist politics, relying more on snide humor and political activism than shock value.
- Of course, before the Dead Kennedys was Crass, which is likely the ultimate example of an actual Anarchist punk band, considering that the group promoted individualism, DIY culture feminism, animal rights, and undermined society through leaflets, political activism, and spray-painted graffiti to spread their message. Hell, the band actually caused an international scandal trying to get information about (what the band and some conspiracy theorists felt was) a false flag attack out to the public.
- Not only were Crass a shining example of an actual anarchist band, they openly defied tropes like this one. Take this line from "Big A, Little A", for example:
"But no one ever changed the church by pulling down a steeple, and you'll never change the system by bombing number ten
Systems just aren't made of bricks, they're mostly made of people; you may send them into hiding, but they'll be back again!"
- Fugazi invoked this trope with black humor in the song "No Surprise".
(hey) Lock eyes shared plan / No c.i.a. / could understand
- Lampshaded by Leslie Fish (a self-proclaimed anarachist) in the song "It's Sister Jenny's Turn to Throw the Bomb".
- Space 1889 played fairly straight and intended to be an antagonist –though it is also available as a player character career in character generation. The illustration fits the stereotype, complete with a cartoon bomb.
- The cover of Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, features a pair of anarchists, one of whom is brandishing a Molotov cocktail. The protagonist characters are all basically bomb-throwing anarchists.
- The Planescape Dungeons & Dragons setting's Anarch faction has a number of members who believe in "overthrow the status quo now," without worrying about what's going to replace it. On the other hand, their motives could be considered better than say, the Sinker fraction of the Doomguard, who worship entropy and destruction for its own sake, or the Xaositects, for whom "having a plan" isn't really an option.
- On the other hand, the Free League faction is more or less made up of non-bomb-throwing anarchists, being a loose association of individuals trying to get with their lives without the other factions telling them what to do. They even organize themselves in a non-hierarchical way.
- Vampire: The Masquerade averted this in two ways:
- The Brujah clan, once known as a clan of passionate philosopher-kings, who tended more towards impulsive radicalism in modern nights. While the clan tends more towards the "throw a brick through a Starbucks window" school of anarchy, however, it does have its share of passionate intellectuals who prefer to argue the merits of anarchy rather than enforce it with their fists.
- The Anarchs, a general faction of vampires who believe the Camarilla are a bunch of outmoded feudal lords with their heads up their butts and the Sabbat are a band of psychopaths. They institute their own systems and fight to establish baronies free from Camarilla control, with political systems varying from baron to baron.
- It should be notable that by the mid-nineties in which the setting is set, the only Anarch holdings left in the world is the US West Coast, which is being invaded by the Sabbat from Mexico, the Camarilla from the east, and the Kuei-Jin coming in by boat from the east, which showcases just how successful the Anarchs are.
- The Jammers from Feng Shui definitely fit the trope, with a fondness for blowing up Feng Shui sites in order to carry out Battlechimp Potemkin's dream of a world without chi.
- Paranoia features the secret society "Death Leopard", a coalition of pseudo-anarchist party-animals.
- 7th Sea has an entire Secret Society of Bomb Throwing Anarchists with its own splatbook. While the Rilisciare's reasons for being anti-authoritarian (nobles in the setting have access to sorcery that is causing the barrier between the physical world and Hell to slowly weaken, and non-powered nobles have a history of betraying the Free Thinkers) are clearly stated, the society's history includes the point where they extended their enmity to include anyone with power, even mundane political power. Plus, all the good explosives abilities and equipment are in their splatbook (including the "Arson" and "Bomb-making" skills and a coat with hidden explosives in the buttons).
- The Warhammer 40,000 spin-off game Gorkamorka featured the Gretchin Revolutionary Committee, who were pretty much just a goblin-based parody of this trope.
- The play Last Meals has in one of its vignettes a Timothy McVeigh expy with a thing for mint chocolate chip ice cream. He is shown making a speech to the camera and does an Unflinching Walk from a building he has just blown up, while eating his ice cream.
- The play The Just Assassins by french writer Albert Camus explores the moral issues faced by a group of Russian terrorists plotting to kill the Governor General of Moscow by throwing a bomb at his carriage.
- This what the victim in Accidental Death of an Anarchist is alleged to have been, and what The Maniac might very well be.
- In Scribblenauts, "terrorist" and "anarchist" are represented by the same character model.
- In Urban Chaos Riot Response the main villains are a bunch of anarchist pyromaniacs called "The Burners" who kill indiscriminately, wear painted hockey masks, and are really brainwashed employees of a corporation who want to "burn the city alive" to "make the country pay for its exploitation of 3rd world countries."
- Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun has a variety of "Crime buildings" that can appear if your crime spending gets too low, one of these is "anarchist bomb-throwers" that greatly increases the chance of a "Political assassination" event.
- The Freakshow in City of Heroes are a group of anarchistic cyberpunks who take more than a few hints from Project Mayhem.
- Aversion: Ryan from The Nameless Mod looks like he's just a Terrorist Without A Cause at first, who happens to be fighting against the Big Bad of the game. But when you talk to him and learn that he's an anarchist, he explains his motives, he comes off as much more sympathetic, and it makes him into a different type of character.
- The Intellivision game Bomb Squad uses this as the premise behind the game. One of these has planted a really big bomb under downtown and you're set to disable it. While you and your pal are trying to disable it, he taunts "It won't be easy!" in what might be an East European accent.
- The Followers of the Apocalypse from Fallout: New Vegas are an anarchist faction that averts this trope. Mistrusting organized governments, they provide technological and humanitarian aid equally to all, and urge the player character against actions that would give a government full control over the Mojave Wasteland.
- Played straight by Samuel Cooke of the Powder Gangers. All the Powder Gangers are escaped cons; he was in for, well, being one of these. He seems to have no real long-term plans except for making bombs to harass the NCR and joining the Great Khans (who also hate the NCR). He's actually the only member of the gang with this mentality, as the ones near the NCR Correctional Facility are just raiders, and one of his own henchman wants to surrender before Cooke drags them all to their deaths.
- The Honest Hearts DLC introduces the "Fight the Power!" perk, which gives you a damage bonus to members of the NCR, Caesar's Legion and the Brotherhood of Steel.
- The villain from a few Game & Watch games was named the Wily Bomber, and (due to the monochromatic color scheme) even managed to look much like the above picture.
- The Downzone Subverters from Syndicate (2012) are Uncivilized La Résistance who are obsessed with bringing down the syndicates. It's full Evil Versus Evil as they don't care for the civilians; in fact, the New York branch's leader gleefully anticipates the collateral damage.
- Donn Throgg from Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is a subversion. His M.O. is typical of the trope, but politically he is a right-leaning (relatively speaking, he's still quite socialist by any standards) union activist, who saw violence as the only way to stop the rampant abuse of orcs, half-orcs and poor humans by Tarantian factory owners.
- The Revolutionaries in Fallen London are frequently this, although it's noted at one point that they've largely moved on from Cartoon Bombs to dynamite.
- The Cooks from Templar Arizona, a gang of people who intentionally turn peaceful demonstrations into riots, mostly with scare tactics, but occasionally with flammables.